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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, September 13, 2019

How Can I Change Custody of My Children in Michigan?

There are two types of custody in Michigan, legal custody and physical custody.  Legal custody refers to decision making for the children such as religious upbringing, where the children attend school and immunizations.  Physical custody refers to with whom the children reside or spend more time.  Changing either type of custody in Michigan is difficult and often requires considerable litigation.

The Law Regarding Modification of Custody

The statutes or laws about changing custody are designed to minimize unwarranted and disruptive changes in children’s custody.  So before the court may even consider modifying a custody order, the party seeking the change (the moving party) must first prove there is proper cause or a change of circumstances.  The purpose of this framework is to erect a barrier against removal of a child from an established custodial environment and to minimize unwarranted and disruptive change of custody orders.  A proper cause to modify custody exists if there are one or more appropriate grounds that have or could have a significant effect on the child’s life to the extent that a reevaluation of the child’s custodial situation should be undertaken.  The trial court may consider the best-interest factors when making this determination.  A change of circumstances warrants modifying a child’s custodial environment only if, since the entry of the last custody order, the conditions surrounding custody of the child, which have or could have a significant effect on the child’s well-being, have materially changed. Normal life changes, whether positive or negative, are not changed circumstances.  Rather, there must be a material change that has had or almost certainly will have an effect on the child’s life.

All of the above can be difficult to prove and it shows that there must be some very serious reason for the court to even consider whether a modification of the custodial arrangement would be good for the children or in their best interests.  For example; in a recent unpublished case, Delekta v Delekta, Michigan Court of Appeals Case No. 345006 (June 27, 2019), the court agreed the the children wanted to spend more time with their mother, but the children wanted that at the time the court made it's original decision regarding custody, so this was not a change in circumstances that justified revisiting custody.  So even though a child might want a change in custody, this is often not enough.

If a party is able to convince the court that there is good cause or a change in circumstances, then the court will have a hearing, take evidence and testimony and decide whether to modify custody based upon the best interest factors that are listed in the statutes.

Call a Michigan Divorce Attorney to Help You

Modification of custody or parenting time is one of the more difficult areas of family law to navigate and accomplish your goals.  It is extremely important to get a custody attorney involved in the case as soon as possible.  Alimony and the different types of spousal support is such a complicated issue that even judge's get it wrong.  Contact Michigan divorce attorney Cameron C. Goulding to set a consultation. 


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